Holst nicknamed Saturn “The Bringer of Old Age," but it's still winning beauty pageants: astronomers call Saturn the most photogenic member of the solar system in interviews for The Planets – An HD Odyssey, the high-definition film of NASA images that will accompany the Philharmonic’s performance of Holst’s epic suite, July 5–7.
Holst was actually channeling each planet's astrological meanings, rather than astronomical features, but Duncan Copp, the film's director/producer, says Holst's music syncs up with the NASA images best in "Saturn," which happened to be Holst's favorite movement. “Look carefully and you’ll see two small ‘shepherd’ moons scooting along next to the rings as the planet majestically rises and the music builds to a crescendo,” Copp told the Houston Symphony, which commissioned the film.
Copp, who holds a doctorate in astronomy, still has a soft spot for Venus; for four years he was a member of the NASA team that mapped it. “Temperatures are 470 degrees Celsius [878 degrees Fahrenheit] on the surface, and it’s got a choking atmosphere. It’s a hellish world, but Holst saw it as a beautiful world, and his music reflects that. It’s the goddess of beauty and love … a picture of pure serenity.”